Restaurant smoking curb infringes libertyMy wife and...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Restaurant smoking curb infringes liberty

My wife and I always have been non-smokers. Though we are non-smokers, we frequent many eating and drinking establishments in Howard County that permit smoking.

A couple of weeks ago, the Dodder and Poddle in the Long Reach Village Center had to close due to a dwindling customer base. Why? Bad food? No. Bad service? No. Bad atmosphere. No.

Bad laws? Indeed.

The law recently enacted in Howard County that requires an establishment to physically separate its smoking and non-smoking sections, including the requirement for separate ventilation systems, was the reason the restaurant had to close.

It was not economically feasible for the Dodder and Poddle to perform the required renovations. They opted to prohibit smoking and operate as a non-smoking establishment. It began losing thousands of dollars per week once it began enforcing the smoking law. Its customers have scattered to other establishments.

What can we do? Repeal the law. It infringes on the rights of small business owners to attract their most frequent customers, many of whom smoke.

Howard is losing once-prosperous businesses, and bar and restaurant customers are being lost to establishments outside of the county.

County lifestyle is not improved by this law. Allow each establishment to make its own decision on how it will accommodate smoking and non-smoking customers. Make them post a sign on their front door stating their policy if you want.

Non-smokers have always had the right to choose not to go to establishments that permit smoking. If there was a demand for totally non-smoking establishments, more would exist. The demand is obviously not there. The dollars spent by non-smoking customers in many establishment is not enough to keep them afloat.

America is supposed to be the land of the free, where citizens are allowed to make their own choices. Howard County government has crossed a line.

Make things right, before we lose another Dodder and Poddle.

Mitch Hooper

Columbia

Public employees deserve respect

The May 14 article about the delay by the Howard County Council in hiring 20 firefighters as a result of its impasse over negotiations with the police and firefighter unions raises some troubling issues.

While the council's rejection of the pension plan may well be fiscally imprudent since union concessions in work schedules would have required fewer new employees and resulted in added savings for the county, it is in its treatment of these employee unions where the questions of legality arise.

Cost-saving measures, such as cutting overtime hours and instituting new work schedules, were agreed to by the unions in return for a 20-year retirement provision.

Now, after having rejected the pension plan, the council Republicans are threatening to extract the savings regardless of their rejection of the pension plan and without the agreement of the unions. The action, in our opinion, is a clear violation of the police union's contract. The council's actions seem to be less about doing the right thing for the county than in setting its own ideological perspective.

Councilman Charles C. Feaga suggested a ballot question to revoke the right of county police and firefighters to unionize. The basic right of public employees to exercise the legal option of unionization is the apparent question. We would suggest that the Howard County police are not second-class and should be treated with the dignity and respect they, and all Howard County public employees, deserve.

Edward A. Mohler

Annapolis

The writer is president of the Maryland State & D.C. AFL-CIO.

Long Reach can't escape world's woes

If Ezel A. Manzili is saying it then others must be thinking it (Letters, "When did Long Reach become a 'hot spot?'," May 18) and that deserves a response.

The point is well taken. This is, after all, Columbia, a place of vigor, promise and strength.

Long Reach, the largest village, will forever be a wonderful place to live and raise kids.

However, we are at a crossroads in our 25th year and the problems of the world do not stop at the borders. As a caring community that welcomes all people regardless of ethnic backgrounds, we endeavor to maintain a safe and nurturing environment for our residents. In order to do that, we have to pay attention to the trends that are developing around us and be proactive in our response.

Sadly, modern society still includes a component of families in crisis and another that requires both parents to work just to keep their heads above water.

Often this is fertile ground for trouble as evidenced by the uptick in juvenile crimes committed countywide in the after-school hours. Add to that the unabated national drug problem and violence seen as an acceptable answer to settling scores and we have a powerful engine for decline.

Chief James N. Robey and the command staff of the Howard County Department of Police, the Long Reach Community Association, the Long Reach Church of God and many other concerned and active citizens and homeowner associations have been working together to ensure that Ezel Manzili and tens of thousands of others who call Columbia home continue to live a quiet village life, and the benefit is not just accrued to Long Reachers.

We did "get real" and will be happy to help anyone looking for insight with a place on the volunteer rolls supporting our endeavor.

John J. Snyder

Columbia

Schools don't need 'Big Brother' tests, Madden says

I have written to Nancy S. Grasmick, state superintendent of schools, to voice my deep concern regarding the State Board of Education's plan to require that a new and tougher series of state exams be completed successfully by high school students in order to graduate.

Currently, to graduate a Maryland high school student needs 21 credits of course work and must pass the Maryland Functional Tests in reading, math, writing and citizenship. However, unlike the new proposed exams, the Maryland Functional Tests, based at the middle school level, are benign and pose no threats to those of us who believe in strong local control of our public schools.

In my capacity as senator representing Howard County, I attended a briefing meeting on April 22, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the PTA, concerning the board's plan for the high school exams. I, along with other Howard County elected representatives, school principals, teachers and PTA members, were given to understand that the objective of this new series of tests is to boost public high school academic standards. Members of the Class of 2004 will not earn diplomas unless they pass the tests, thus proving to state education officials that they have mastered math, science, English and social studies.

I am deeply concerned that once again the State Board of Education is imposing its shadow over local control of Maryland public schools.

Frankly, I don't believe Howard County schools or their students, who are consistently among the state's high scorers in all comprehensive tests, need a "Big Brother" state test to indicate whether students are ready to graduate.

I believe the Howard County teachers and principals have been doing a fine job of making those determinations. Under the proposed state exams, it would be quite possible for a Howard County teacher who gives a student a passing grade to be overruled by a test that indicates the student should not receive a passing grade.

These proposed exams are different than the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP), established in 1990 as a benchmark to measure all Maryland schools' performance, rather than individual student performance.

These tests, given in the third, fifth and eighth grades, already require a degree of classroom time preparing students. With varying degree, time better spent in learning the basics is used to "teach to the test." There is no doubt in my mind that more valuable classroom time will also be spent prepping students for the proposed high school exams.

A report delivered to the State Board of Education this past January noted that half of all students can be expected to fail one of the 10 proposed exams in the first year and 20 percent thereafter. Yet, Christopher Cross, board president, said he did not expect the tests to stop many students from graduating because the test can be repeated if it is failed.

However, concern over the failure rate may lead the board to offer a variety of diplomas, ranging from basic to higher levels of achievement. Mr. Cross said that determining where to set the passing rates is "obviously of prime importance, but so is having a diploma that demonstrates you have mastered core learning goals."

The whole idea makes no sense. We are told the test will be a lot tougher than the Maryland Functional Tests. Yet, we are also told that because these tests can be taken multiple times, they will not bar too many from graduating. If that's not double talk, I don't know what is.

Despite general agreement among educators that local control of school systems is most effective and produces the best results, the State Board of Education is deliberately eroding that control with its testing initiatives.

I echo the fear voiced by Joseph I. Headmann Jr., principal of the Winston Churchill High School in Potomac and co-chairman of a team of Montgomery County educators studying the exam program. Mr. Headmann said it appears that "we're headed for a state-mandated curriculum." As I see it, the establishment of this proposed testing in our high schools to determine who graduates and who does not is, at best, of very questionable value.

At worst, it is the harbinger of excessive state control of our public schools.

Martin G. Madden

Annapolis

The writer is a senator representing parts of Howard and Prince George's counties.

Pub Date: 6/01/97

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